Why is making discipleship important apart from the fact that it was Jesus’ final instruction before he left the earth? Because if we don’t make disciples this is what happens. The cart overwhelms the horse.
This is what I mean…
In this analogy the horse represents discipleship and the cart represents our public worship gatherings. And let me just say from the get go that I love public worship gatherings. I love attending them. I love leading them. I love teaching at them. I think that there is something very inspirational and encouraging about gathering with a large group of Christians. And there are people and churches out there who are incredibly creative and innovative with these large public gatherings. So much so that they can put on a gathering that rivals any media or production outfit of our day.
But with that being said, over the last twenty years it’s become apparent that our public gatherings have succeeded at the expense of discipleship. We have put so many resources and so much time, energy and effort into our public gatherings that we have overloaded the cart and now we can’t pull it anywhere. Again, I don’t mean to say it’s all a waste. I believe people meet Jesus in those gatherings and experience significant life change. But meeting Jesus is only the beginning and our public gatherings don’t always get people beyond that initial encounter. They aren’t designed to do that. It takes a different type of setting to show people what it means to be with Jesus, in order to learn from Jesus, so that we can live like Jesus.
In a sense, we have starved the horse and hooked it up to a cart that is impossible to pull, a cart that is heavy weighted and high maintenance. And no matter how great our gatherings are, and no matter how many people “meet Jesus” in those gatherings, if we can’t make disciples we can’t pull the cart anywhere and at some level the cart becomes useless. It may look good, but that’s about it.
So, perhaps what we need is a re-ordering of our priorities. Perhaps we need to shift our focus from loading up the cart to feeding the horse (and throw some creatine in its feed while we’re at it). Just imagine what would happen if the horse was healthy and strong. It would have no problem pulling the cart. Also, imagine if you hooked up a dozen healthy and strong horses to that cart. Those horses could pull a cart like that anywhere and get a whole lot more done.
And what if a whole bunch of churches started to really feed their horses? Perhaps a discipleship movement would be unleashed. At that point we wouldn’t have to solely rely on public gatherings with professionals to be the only place where people met Jesus. But, instead, people could meet Jesus not in a church service, but perhaps in a home, a coffee shop or at the pool. In a sense, they would meet Jesus in a context and space that would naturally translate into people immediately being taught how to be with Jesus, in order to learn from Jesus, so that they can live like Jesus.
That’s a dream worth pursuing. A worldwide movement of Jesus-foced disciples who change their local communities through representing Him everywhere they go!